It's safe to say that most tycoons have their strategies for preparing for potentially game-changing business meetings down pat. Some, we're sure, brush up on their slides one-by-one, noting key points. Others might meditate to destress or indulge in a quick pick-me-up from their favorite coffee shop to keep energy levels high. But Oprah Winfrey's methodology for getting ready to close huge deals for OWN, her network, is far and away the most memorable — and the most moving.
The 62-year-old author and media mogul opened up to Washington Post Magazine, telling interviewer Marcia Davis that before going to meetings and making big moves, she often recites the names and prices of slaves to keep her grounded, and to contextualize her impact.
"I have a list of slaves from various plantations, their names and prices," she said. "I pass them every day. They serve as a grounding mechanism... Often I will just stop and speak their names, and their ages, and their prices, particularly before I am going to go into something, you know, like making a deal for a network or a big decision about one of my companies."
In the interview, the mogul described her knowledge of history and of the men and women who came before as a source of strength. Oprah recently made a $21 million donation to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which will open next week in Washington, D.C., and hopes that the museum can serve as an educational tool for generations to come, reminding all people of the challenges African Americans faced in the United States.
She emphasized an optimistic take on the state of African American life, noting that she hopes young people can see the history and step out of it into a brighter future.
"There's a line in a poem: I am the dream and the hope of the slave," she told Davis. "I often feel that, that I am more than the seed of the free. I get to be the blossom for that. I really hope for African American people who come, they will see the same thing: You can be the blossom for all the seeds that were planted."
Right now, 69 percent of Americans say race relations are bad, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll. That poll represents one of the worse states of division the country has seen since 1992, when riots in Los Angeles during the Rodney King case were a source of national debate.
Oprah expressed some hope that the museum could help heal our country and bridge that divide.
"The word 'journey' is so overused, but it really has been remarkable to see [the museum] come to fruition," she said. "It's going to be worth putting on a ballgown for. I can tell you that."